People are lining up at gas stations, which have been told to dispense cash. Photo: REUTERS
People are lining up at gas stations, which have been told to dispense cash. Photo: REUTERS

To ease the banknote chaos that has gripped the nation and reduce the huge queues at banks and ATMs, the Indian government on Friday told gas stations to start dispensing cash.

About 2,500 state-run gas stations across the country that have State Bank of India card swipe machines will permit people to withdraw up to 2,000 rupees a day using their debit cards.

The move was prompted as anger and frustration continue to grow since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on November 8 that all 500 rupee and 1,000 rupee banknotes were invalid, which wiped out 86% of the cash that was in circulation in the country.

The move was intended to clamp down on corruption, counterfeiting, terrorism financing and illegal cash holdings known as “black money.” Since then, the government has been playing down the crisis by saying it was “a temporary pain for long-term gain.”

However, earlier this week, opposition parties closed ranks to call on Modi to fix the nationwide mess which has also been blamed for causing the deaths of 55 people — most of the victims being senior citizens who collapsed while standing in long bank queues.

The queues have gone viral on social media.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission has questioned the government’s decision to apply indelible ink the right hand index finger of people depositing money in banks to discourage repeat money exchangers.

The commission is concerned that it could have an effect on by-elections in five states on November 19.

During elections, indelible ink is applied on the left index finger of the voter to prevent voter fraud. If the voter does not have an index finger, it is applied on another finger.

If the voter does not have a left hand, the same principle is applied on the right hand. If a voter does not have any hands, then the indelible ink is applied on the toes.

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